In a previous blogging life I wrote a short post about cowslips (Primula veris), and why every garden should have some. That was over five years ago now, but it remains the most viewed post on my old blog (The Garden Deli), and still gets regular visits.
Cowslips, it seems, are popular plants. In a poll run by the charity Plantlife, they were voted the fifth most popular wildflower (beaten by bluebell, primrose, poppy and snowdrop). Unlike some wildflowers which can be a little too vigorous to be good garden plants, cowslips make a beautiful addition to the spring garden. Their small, yellow flowers are held on stems above the leafy rosette, and look good planted among other spring flowering plants, like blue or white grape hyacinth. This combination is a good one for feeding bees too.
The plants are happy in sun or partial shade. They would naturally grow in meadows, open woodland and hedgerows, but as these habitats have disappeared from the countryside, so have the cowslips. Saying this, Plantlife reports that cowslip populations are now showing signs of recovery. So perhaps meadows dotted with these pretty yellow flowers will become a common sight again.
Given the right conditions, the cowslip is an easy going garden flower. It likes a well-drained but dampish soil, preferably slightly alkaline, and can be grown in pots if kept well watered. Cowslips can also be naturalised in grassy areas which are left uncut until late summer, giving the plants a chance to disperse their seeds.
The garden centres are filling up with trays of bedding primulas at the moment, but it’s worth searching out cowslips from a local independent nursery. The flowers may not be as big and bold, or come in as wide a range of colours as the primulas, but their beauty lies in their delicacy. Are you going to be adding a few of these pretty wildflowers to your garden this year?